President Donald Trump once described himself as like, this great allegiance freak. But to former employees of the nations top law-enforcement service, its his apparent a requirement for personal loyalty from the nations top policeman the hell is freakish.
Seven days after taking the oath of office, Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to pledge his allegiance to him twice during a one-on-one White House dinner, according to a stunning report from The New York Times . Citing two people close to the former FBI director who claim to have heard Comey himself recount the events of the dinner, the Times reports that Comey declined, pledging instead always to be honest with the president.
Trump, in apparent displeasure with this answer, reportedly asked Comey the same question again later on in the dinner. Again, Comey allegedly responded that he would devote Trump his franknes. Upon being asked to deny the presidents wishes a third hour, the Times reports that Comey fulfilled Trump halfway, promising honest loyalty.
At the time of the presidents alleged request for personal allegiance, the FBI was already investigating alleged ties between Trumps presidential campaign and the Russian government.
The account differs radically from Trumps own accounting of the dinner. In an interview recorded Thursday afternoon with NBCs Lester Holt, all that Trump remembered from the dinner was asking Comey, if its possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation? He told, You are not under investigation.
Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a former FBI special agent, told The Daily Beast that the report is straight out of the playbooks of the authoritarian strongmen of whom Trump appears to be such a fan.
This loyalty pledge is totally out of line, Watts told. The FBI director is given a 10 -year word for this exact reasonto prevent the nations top law-enforcement officer from being put under undue influence based on political pressures.
If the Times report is true, Watts continued, Trumps loyalty pledge tactic comes straight-out from the worst aspects of authoritarians and mob bosses who find their regulation above the rule of law.
For the head of an organization that must operate with impartiality by necessity, such an overture would represent a massive red flag. For Comey, who was coming off of a half-year of blistering criticism for his therapy of the FBIs investigation into Hillary Clintons use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of State, the request would have incited an even stronger reaction.
I cant imagine any FBI agent or director that would respond well to this overt pressure, Watts said. They would naturally push away from[ President Trump] to remain independent.
This Xerxian alleged petition is in keeping with the presidents longtime insistence on absolute fealty from his subordinates, as well as his more recent fixation on faithfulnes from his supporters and officials in the U.S. government.
In March of last year, Trump was criticized for inadvertently invoking the Third Reich when he began asking attendees of rallies in Florida to give loyalty pledges to vote for him in the Republican primary.
Raise your right hand, Trump told his supporters at the time. I do solemnly swear that Ino matter how I feel , no matter what the conditions, if theres hurricanes or whateverwill vote, on or before the 12 th, for Donald J. Trump for president.
Abe Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Trumps pledge a fascist gesture.
He is smart enoughhe always tells us how smart he isto know the images that this evokes, Foxman told the Times of Israel . Instead of asking his audience to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, which in itself would be a little bizarre, hes asking them to swear allegiance to him .
Since his election, Trump has folded his paranoiac fixation on loyalty into the regulate of the nation. As The Daily Beast reported in March, Trump agreed with the suggestion of chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon to keep a shit list of Republicans who failed to support his first, doomed bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
[ Bannon] has told the president to keep a shit list on this, one official told The Daily Beast. He wants a running tally of[ the Republicans] who want to sink this Not sure if Id call it an adversaries list, per se, but I wouldnt want to be on it.
The White House has even cited a lack of allegiance toward the administration as part of the reason behind Comeys firing. On Thursday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox& Friends that Trump expects people who are serving in his administration to be loyal to the country and to be loyal to the administration.
In the rhetorical version of taking a chainsaw to the branch youre sitting on, Trump himself told Holt that this Russia thing was on his mind when he fired Comey.
When I decided to simply[ fire Comey ], I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up narrative, Trump said.
With personal devotion to the president an apparent chore requirement for the next FBI director, Watts told, the list of possibilities successors to Comey is short.
Its impossible to be an independent, impartial FBI director under Trumps tantrums and Sessions pressure, Watts told. Who can they maybe pick?
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